It’s hard to remember a time when L.L. Bean was “cool.” Yet, the brand has outlasted many hipper brands over the decades and continues to thrive today. Part of the reason the brand is terminally normal is that L.L. Bean has never really fallen out of favor, and as such, has never had the opportunity for a thrift store rediscovery. The brand’s careful combination of iconic items, consistent, subliminal (but still hyper-aggressive) advertising and a reputation for dependability have kept L.L. Bean in the closets of average Americans since the company’s inception.

While it is interesting to look at the rise, fall and reemergence of more flashy brands, there is also something instructive in looking at how L.L. Bean has maintained its iconic status for more than a century. As you track L.L. Bean’s history, you see that the brand is just as important as the product and the two develop in tandem. If the brand and product grow to a certain level, a company can enter American mythology. That’s just what L.L. Bean has been able to do.

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